Do the French have style? Pffff… almost as daffed as asking whether Brigitte Bardot was the style icon of her era, or whether Coco Chanel defined French chic…
Well, I was never intending for this comparison of classic Grand Tourers which can be bought – if not run – on a budget, to turn into a battle of nations. But Italy lead to Germany and when a reader then submitted a British contender for the throne shortly before last Saturday, the scene was really set at that point. Now the theme must continue, and where better to turn our attention than to the French? After all, a sleek coupé is all about style and presence, and the French have always managed both quite formidably. At this point I would have loved to present to you a stunning Facel Vega, as not much can compete with this tour de force of French excellence. However, we still have that budget, which we must at least attempt to adhere to.
The Peugeot 504 saloon was presented to the world in late 1968, and only a handful of months later in early 1969 did we get the Pininfarina designed coupé and convertible too. As is almost always the case, the drivetrain was initially lifted straight from the saloon in order to keep costs down, but the complete body and the interior too where clean slate designs. Initially they were both available with the saloons range-topping fuel injected 4-cylinder engine, but in this comparison of Grand Tourers, that’s just not going to cut it.
However, in late 1974 both the coupé and the convertible received their first facelift, in which I personally feel they sadly lost a little of their visual flair. The twin square headlights became a single rectangular unit, and what’s even worse was the highly stylish original rear lights with three separate vertical lights joined together by a chromed backing plate losing out to a plain oblong integrated unit. On the positive though, the newly developed V6 PRV engine – developed in conjunction with Renault and Volvo – made its Peugeot debut at the same time in the facelifted 504 coupé and convertible, thereby immediately lifting the stylish car into a higher market segment where 4-cylinder cars just don’t get to play. It also separated the coupé and convertible further from the saloon, as the V6 engine never became available in the 504 saloon.
In 1978 the all-aluminium V6 engine was further refined with fuel injection, and then in late 1979 the 504 coupé and convertible received their final facelift, which to my eyes was again a step backwards, losing the slim chromed bumpers to a pair of more aerodynamic-looking plastic bumpers, which really didn’t gel particularly well with the rest of the design. In this form the sleek coupé and the chic convertible soldiered on until production finally ceased in mid 1983, by which time Peugeot had sold about 26,000 coupés of which only 6,000-odd examples were fitted with the bigger V6 engine. The convertible was even rarer with less than 8,000 examples being produced.
This particular example is a 1978 car making it the first year of the fuel injected PRV engine. More importantly it’s early enough to wear the slim chrome bumpers lending it a truly classic appearance. It looks great in silver and presents very original and unmolested, even still sitting on its factory steel wheels which prove that you don’t need expensive alloys to look upmarket – especially not when a set of stylish stainless steel centre caps are involved. The interior is even better with scrumptiously seventies green velour seats, and only the aftermarket wooden steering wheel looking slightly tacky and out of place. Easily rectified though… The private seller claims that it has 190,000 km on the clock equating to roughly 118,000 miles, and that there’s a current French “contrôle technique” too. With the current exchange rate, the asking price of Euro 15,000 will lighten your bank account by roughly £ 13,400, so it actually works out as the most expensive of our quartet of grand coupés thus far. But French chic was never going to come cheap, was it?
Here are a couple of pictures taken from the advertisement:
While the advertisement is rather lacking on any real information, here it is nonetheless for you to browse through:
1978 Peugeot 504 Coupé V6
So can a Peugeot really compete with a V12 Jaguar or a V8 Mercedes-Benz? Well admittedly it would be easy to argue against that. For starters the Jaguar has double the number of cylinders, practically double the engine capacity and even a smidgen above double the amount of horsepower. When new, both the Jaguar and the Mercedes were of course also a lot more expensive. However, on today’s classic car market they sell for roughly the same, which in itself justifies the comparison – stylish seventies Grand Tourer coupés selling at prices which many enthusiasts will find achievable. So how can a V6 Peugeot – and for that matter a V6 Fiat – hold the same classic car value as the grander Jaguar and Mercedes? Maybe outright power isn’t everything after all. How about rarity? Well on that aspect especially the Fiat 130 Coupé, but most certainly also this Peugeot 504 Coupé V6 thoroughly outdrag both the Mercedes and the Jaguar. Suddenly it all makes perfect sense. If the objective is style, presence and making a statement, then individualism will always be en vogue. But which do you prefer? And would you be brave enough to value rarity and individualism higher than outright power and price when new?
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
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